Uganda Shilling

The Ugandan shilling, call it; ‘the shilling’ as it is commonly known, is the official legal currency of Uganda. It is printed and circulated by the central bank – Bank of Uganda.

It’s denoted by UGX and uses the sign: Ush. Take for example; 1000 Ush would represent 1000 Ugandan shillings.

Technically, the shilling is subdivided into 100 cent but these are not in circulation and you will not see because the Central bank has not issued them since the revaluation of the shilling in 1987.

You might want to know how much your money is worth in Ugandan shillings. You’ve got a handy Currency Converter here to help you do that.

In addition to information about Ugandan money, get to know about Ugandan banking here. You can also find my response to one of the FAQs; Opening a bank account in Uganda here.

Looking back at Ugandan Money!

The shilling has had its time dating way back in 1966 when it replaced the then East African shilling.

Through the years it took on different shapes, sizes, denominations, designs and colors.

Ugandan history will show that every regime that took government changed its look – probably depending on the mood (joke!)…. but more seriously as one of the signs to show the general public that government had changed.

The shilling; 1981 – 1985

A lot of this is attributed to the fact that for the times if not all that government changed, it was through forceful military take over and the new lot used this as one of their immediate changes to usher in the new administration.

Notable was that the president’s portrait was printed on the face of the shilling notes for all I can remember at least for the governments of Dr Milton Obote and Idi Amin.

The current President – Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has resisted that since 1986 when he came into power and maintained the national symbols and pictures that depict Uganda even when the Ugandan shilling took on a new look in 1987.

Before 1987, the government repeatedly devalued the Ugandan shilling in its effort to stabilise the economy.

In the mid 1980 the official exchange rate of the Ugandan shilling against the United States dollar was about 7.3 Ush to 1 US dollar. Steps to stabilize the economy saw the value of the shilling drop to 78 Ush to 1 US dollar in 1981 after government floated it.

In 1982, the Obote government introduced a two-tier exchange rate but later merged the two rates in 1984 that saw the Ugandan shilling settle for an exchange rate of 299 Ush to 1 US dollar.

Followed by hard times when the famous Ugandan bush war (1980 – 1986) was at its peak, Uganda was hit by continued foreign exchange shortage that caused the decline of the Ugandan shilling to its all time low rate at the time in 1985; 600 Ush to 1 US dollar. It continued to fall rapidly to 1,450 Ush to 1 US dollar in 1986.

In 1987, with a new government in power, following the high inflation that was sky rocketing at the time, a new shilling was introduced worth 100 old shillings, along with a 76% devaluation. This revised the rate down to 60 Ush to 1 US dollar.

With the economy still struggling at the time, with continued shortage of foreign exchange and inflation still sky high, the new rate was quickly out of line with the black market rate of 350 Ush to 1 US dollar leaving Ugandans complaining and frustrated.

However, the money supply continued to grow at an annual rate of 500% and by July 1988, the government devalued again by 60% settling the exchange rate at 150 Ush to 1 US dollar. This did not seem to help the situation since the parallel rate had already risen to 450 Ush to 1 US dollar.

Frustration continued with government announcing a further devaluation in December 1988; 165 Ush to 1 US dollar, followed by anther in March 1989; 200 Ush to 1 US dollar and in October 1989; 340 Ush to 1 US dollar.

By Late 1990, the official exchange rate was 510 Ush to 1 US dollar and 700 Ush on the black market.

The positive in all this effort was that government succeed in bringing down the inflation rate from a staggering 300% to 72% in 1988.

The government continued to control inflation with its strict economic recovery and transformation on sound macroeconomic policy which attracted massive overseas development assistance. Inflation came down to an annual average of 5% between 1998 and 2007 with the exchange rate stable at between 1800 to 2000 Ush to a dollar.

…to date

The Ugandan shilling has continued to be a relatively stable currency which prevails in majority of Uganda’s financial transactions.

New notes currently in use

The lower value notes are particularly constantly in use and therefore dirty, old and sometimes disintegrated. They are widely handled and take a battering in daily use. Solution could be replacing these with coins – but that is not for me!

The denominations currently in use are; 50, 100, 200 and 500 in coins and 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000 and 50,000 in bank notes.There is a new set of notes that took over from the old lot – quite different in colour and size, therefore be on the look out especially when the old ones are finally phased out completely and not accepted as legal tender.

The new notes are considerably difficult to counterfeit given the numerous features they have – I can’t say to what extent but as a caution, there are some ‘smart fellows’ out there who have tried to do that before. Therefore take caution, lest you are conned with the wrong ones.

Uganda was no exception with the down turn in the world market, the increase in world fuel prices and the continued increase in consumer commodity prices ( purportedly caused by the prolonged drought that hit Uganda in recent times) has seen the inflation rate go up to its highest in the last 10 years to 30.5% by October 2011. This figure had come down to 18.6% by May 2012.

This has also seen the Ugandan shilling lose value to the dollar to its lowest; about 2,500 Ush to 1 US dollar in recent times.